Well, apparently Santa Claus thought I had been a very good boy this year, because he brought me the only thing I ever, ever wanted, a brand new Eberlestock F4 Terminator pack in dry earth! Oh boy! While this is not a BOB spefically, it could very well serve as one admirably if you're able to spare the $400 on a dedicated BOB. For me, it needed to meet the needs of a few scenarios:
-General recreational backpacking of 5-7 days
-Recreational national and international travel for up to 30 days, primarily by rail and air.
-Deployments as part of a federal asset in time of emergency. To fit this mission, I needed a pack out of which I could be completely self sufficient for 24-48 hours, nearly self sufficient (water, food, and transport only provided) for 48-96 hours, and highly mobile but vehicle supported for 4-14 days.
To meet the needs of the last scenario, I needed a pack that was modular and would meet the needs of the assignment, but for the first two, I wanted something that didn't look too military-esque, especially internationally. This steered me in the direction both of this pack and the color. Not to mention that Eberlestock is one of the only companies that offers photos of their product in multiple light conditions and against multiple backdrops, giving me a good idea what to expect. So...onto the pack:
In addition to the primary compartment that separates into two, with separate access points, there are 8 additional, self contained pockets, and two open top pouches. These are numbered as such in the photo with the following designations/descriptions:
-1: Detachable top/flap. This has three pockets within (described/photo'ed below) and a hidden waist/shoulder strap so that it can be used as a small stand-alone pack or carry-on.
-2: Medium sized front pouch, padded across the bottom, secured with a zipper.
-3: Small sized front pouch, not padded, secured with a zipper.
-4: Full lenght side pouches, not padded, secured with speed clips.
-5: Open top pouches with drawstrings, not padded.
-6: (Not pictured) Weapons sleeve behind the main compartment.Removable Top Flap
Once removed from the pack, the top flap can be used as a stand alone unit, with an integrated, but well hidden and stowed waist shoulder strap:
This removable small pack contains three pockets...
A hydration compartment with drink tube passway and water resistant lining:
A fleece lined optics compartment with a hook for keys, etc:
And a main compartment that is well sized for books, maps, documents and the like:
The top of this pack contains MOLLE webbing and the bottom is stitched with Eberlestock's Padlock webbing that provides a surprisingly secure attachment to the top of the main pack.
I think the idea of a securely attached but removable small pack is, overall, a good idea. I can see, however, where the two straps holding could prove a weak point and both the hydration and lens pockets were, in my opinion, a bit conservative in volume.Main Compartment
If the top flap is removed, the pack can still be secured as any normal pack would.
Open the top flap, and one finds a traditional, draw string closed top load opening for the pack:
Unclip the compression straps and look a little further, however, and one will find one of my favorite features of this pack. A cargo bay style opening on the front that accesses the main compartment:
The flap for this is behind and attached to the middle, medium sized pouch (2) in the photo.
Within this main compartment are a few great organizational tools.
Main radio pouches connected to the back wall, with corresponding compression strap, as well as another clip for small items/keys:
Each side wall on the interior of the pack has a zippered mesh compartment to organize small objects:
The inside of the cargo bay compartment flap has plenty of MOLLE:
And there is a zippered separation allowing the main compartment to merge with the lower:Lower Compartment
The small lower compartment can be accessed either through the main compartment via the aforementioned zippered pass-through flap, or via its own exterior access flap. This flap is behind and covered by the small lower pouch (3) and closes with a zipper.
Inside this compartment are four small/medium open top pouches that close with elastic. The inside of the flap is covered with MOLLE webbing, like the interior of the flap on the main compartment:
The only down side of this compartment is that to fit a full size, cold weather bag and bivy in this compartment, one would definitely need a compression sack. I'm not sure of many medium sized packs that wouldn't require this, though.Exterior Pouches
The medium sized exterior pouch (2) is well sized, padded across the bottom, secures with a zipper, and has plenty of MOLLE on the exterior.
The small sized lower pouch (3) is well sized, unpadded, and secures with a zipper, and has plenty of MOLLE on the exterior.
On each side of the pack is a full length, enclosed pouch, secured with a speed clip. Each of these will accomodate a small tent, shelter cloth, or well packed sleeping pad and are covered with lots of MOLLE webbing.
In one of my favorite features of the pack, each of these pouches has a zipper that runs the full length of one side of the pouch, exposing the main pack wall on the inside, but maintaing the enclosed integrity of the pouch. Within this exposed area is a set of MOLLE webbing to accept a rifle scabard or whatever accessory you chose. This "compartment" is also open to the top to allow for long objects, and the zipper has a small plastic clip at the top of it's run to keep it from coming open with time and movement. These sections of the pack will accomodate a collapsed M4 variant without modification and, probably a small .22lr or similarly sized rifle.
At the bottom of each side of the pack is a small, open top pouch with a draw string closure.Suspension System/Back Pad
I believe this will prove to be one of the most comfortable packs I've had the pleasure to haul. There is tons of well ventilated padding across the entire back, with a very nice lumbar pad. The suspension system is fairly simple to adjust for height and offers adjustment at the strap connection points as well to adjust the ride on the move. The hip belt is nice and wide, rides well, and has lots of padding, as well as MOLLE webbing across for small additions, mag pouches, etc.
Another great feature of this pack is the fact that the waist belt velcros in behind the lumbar pad. This keeps it from shifting about, but makes it fairly easy to remove for travel. Anybody who's seen the look of a ticket agent on a commercial flight when checking a "strappy" backpack will appreciate this feature.Rain Cover
When the pack is turned "on it's head", one finds two zippers.
The one on the foreground is for the rifle sleeve, and the one behind, when opened, exposes the attached rainfly:
This is attached into the pack with a removable clip and fits well around the entire pack, securing with small hooks:Rifle Sleeve
As with all Eberlestock packs, this one is designed to haul a weapon along with your gear. To accomplish this, there is an integrated sleeve that rides between the pack and the suspension system, keeping the weapon weight close to your body. This section has a zipper to close it at either end and lots of MOLLE within to secure your scabbard.
This section of the pack will not accomodate a long gun without modification or the addition of one of Eberlestock's rifle bags, however I believe it would fit most bull-pups or true SMG's as is, and they would be nicely concealed therein.General construction/details
This pack really excels in this area. It's thoughtfully designed with the end-user in mind and appears to be very ruggedly built. All the stitching is solid, the buckles are of high grade, heavy plastic, the nylon is 1000 denier throughout, and the webbing is wide and thick. MOLLE webbing abounds, there are several well placed compression straps, and even the zipper pulls are reinforced:Overall Impressions
For what I need, I could not ask for a better pack. It's well designed, roomy, comfortable, comparatively light weight, heavily built, and American made by a small company that's somewhat local to me and has a good reputation. There are a few drawbacks, however. It's on the spendy side, it's a bit heavy compared to civillian packs, and the hydration pouch and lens pouches are a bit small. All in all, though, I give it a 9.8/10 and I'm most pleased that it's mine!